Who’s Who in 2012: The All-Arounders

All-Around Champions Beijing, 2008. AP Photo

The all-around gold medal is the most coveted individual gymnastics achievement. When people refer to the champion, they mean the all-around champion. This Olympic year has an EXCITING all-around competition in store! Most years in women’s gymnastics there is a battle between two, maybe three gymnasts for the gold medal. This year, that is not the case. This all-around final will have five gymnasts who could win the gold medal. Who will end up on top is anyone’s guess. Hold onto your hats ladies and gentlemen, this is going to be a wild ride!

Here are the contenders, in the order that they have “placed” based on their final meets of the season. These are the all around scores and start values they posted most recently (as best as I can find). Just remember, these scores were given in different countries under different judging panels at different points in the season. They give us an idea, but by no means are they reason to think anyone has this wrapped up.

Gabrielle Douglas, USA (62.050: Olympic Trials)

Gabrielle, or Gabby, has been a rising star this year. Last year, she was known for her high flying bar routine, but her mental game was just not strong enough for her to be an all-around threat. This all changed when she came roaring out of the gate as an exhibitionist at the AT&T American cup. She unofficially (her scores did not count as an alternate) ran away with the gold. Since then, Gabby has been inching away at Jordyn Wieber’s lead in every meet until she finally overtook her by .1 at the Olympic Trials.

Gabby comes in with one of the highest potential start values of the group. She has the physical ability to blow away the competition. What remains to be seen is if she can continue improving her mental game and hit the routines when they count. If everyone brings out their best and they all hit, Gabby most likely wins. However, Gabby has yet to really hit four for four in a competition. Is it likely that she can do it for the first time in the pressure packed Olympic All-Around Finals?

Jordyn Wieber, USA (61.650: Olympic Trials)

Jordyn is the current world champion. Though last year’s win speaks volumes for her gymnastics and competitive abilities, history is not on her side. Not since Lilia Podkopayeva has anyone won an Olympic all-around title the year after winning a World championship all-around title. Before her, it hadn’t been done since 1972. In other words, in the ever-changing world of gymnastics, back to back titles are rare.

Jordyn comes in with one of the lower theoretical start values of the group, but with the second highest actual all-around score. Jordyn is a focused, fierce competitor. She always seems to know how to put in just enough to pull out the win. Though she might have lower start values, her consistency and execution can easily put her on top.

Larisa Iordache (60.850: Romanian Friendly)

Larisa made her senior debut this year at the AT&T American Cup. Her junior showings made her highly anticipated as the Romanian all-around contender at the Olympics and she has not disappointed. Each meet she goes out and gets better, more consistent and more polished.

Larisa has a charming floor routine, one of if not the most difficult beam routine that will be performed at the Olympics, a solid vault and a very decent bar routine. She has been shown doing Amanars in training videos, which would increase her standings. She competes with a delightful childlike air about her and if she continues on the trajectory she has been on her entire career, she will easily be in the mix for the gold.

Alexandra Raisman (60.650: Olympic Trials)

Aly would most likely NOT be in the All-Around finals due to the two per country rule. However, if something goes wrong with one of the top two US contenders, Aly would swoop in. She was fourth at last years world championships with a horrible mistake on bars. Since then she has upgraded on every event and comes into the games with the fourth highest score. Aly is exceptional on three out of four events. However, bars keeps her from challenging for the top spot. Aly would need someone else to make a mistake to make it into the finals and onto the podium. But her rock solid, consistent performances make her a gymnast you should not count out. After all, anything can happen in the pressure of the Olympic spotlight.

Viktoria Komova (60.767:Russia Cup)

Gymnastics fans all over the world anticipate Viktoria’s entrance to the senior ranks last year. However, an ankle injury prohibited her training for much of the year, and she came into last year’s World Championships looking tired and was not up to performing with the level of difficulty and precision that she showed as a junior. Even so, she battled to the end with Jordyn Wieber and lost the gold by the smallest fraction.

This year, Viktoria has grown and gained in muscle. But her slight form still hides the incredible power underneath. She dances like a ballerina, vaults with power and grace, swings bars like she was meant to live life in the trees and tumbles on the beam as if she was light as a feather. If Viktoria is able to do her amanar vault as is rumored (which she has yet to do as a senior), she will come in with the highest theoretical start value. However, she will have to have a more consistent performance on all events than she has yet shown as a senior. This very well may happen, as injury has kept her from performing at the level she is capable of.

Aliya Mustafina (59.167: Russia Cup)

In 2010, Aliya was a star. In fact, it seemed she was on her way to becoming one of the gymnastics greats. Had we ever seen someone who could vault with the power and amplitude she attained and dance like a prima ballerina on floor? Someone who’s beautiful swing on bars was only outdone by her lightness and sureness on beam. Aliya won the all-around. She led the Russian team to gold. She qualified in EVERY event finals and placed on the podium in all but beam, where she had her only mistake of the entire competition. She looked unstoppable.

Unfortunately, an injury has put a serious roadblock in her path to glory. In 2011, she tore her ACL at the European Championships while performing her famous amanar. Her recovery has been difficult. She has grown. But she has continued to train hard.

Aliya has yet to show the level of gymnastics and performance she attained in 2010 this year.  But Aliya has a competitive drive, a fierceness and focus on the competition floor like few others. She has that undefinable quality and mental drive that propels her to the front. I would not be surprised at all if she ends up on the podium.

Yao Jinnan (58.598- from 2011 World Championships) 

Yao Jinnan placed third behind Jordyn and Viktoria at the 2011 World Championships. But for a fall on beam, she actually would have been first! Yao has not competed a lot this year, so it is hard to ascertain her current standings and level of difficulty. She is a long shot for gold, but it is definitely not out of the question if she hits her routines!

And here is a fun video highlighting these gymnasts and more.

Who’s Who in 2012: The Teams

USA WAG Team. Photo Credit: USA Gymnastics

The question I get asked the most often by my friends as we head into the Olympics is “How are the USA’s chances.” My answer, “Currently, it is theirs to lose.” But the key word is currently. Right now, we have one of the deepest, most dominant US teams ever assembled.

The USA comes into the Olympics as the reigning world championship team. Led by reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber, Olympic trials champion Gabby Douglas, two time world team member and world bronze floor champion Aly Raisman, rising star Kyla Ross and 2011 world vault champion McKayla Maroney. The alternates are Elizabeth Price, Sarah Finnegan and Anna Li. They have high difficulty, high scores and most of all, they are very consistent. They rarely fall, or even make major mistakes.

However, the other countries know this, and have been working hard to up their difficulty so that they can challenge for the team gold medal. And history is working against them. No team coming into an Olympic year as the World Champions have won the Olympic team gold since the dominance of the USSR.

The second question, “Is China going to wipe the floor with us?” Well, no. This quad, China has not been dominant. In 2010, Russia showed a brilliant team with lots of future promise. The USA dominated in 2011. And this year, Romania is proving themselves ready for the challenge. The USA’s main competitors are Romania and Russia.

Russia’s team is led by veteran Ksenia Afanasyeva, last year’s silver medalist Viktoria Komova, rising star Anastasia Grishina, 2010 superstar Aliya Mustafina and vault specialist Maria Paseka. Their alternates are Yulia Inshina and Tatiana Nabieva.

Romania’s 2012 European Championship team.

Romania’s team is led by 2004 Olympic team, beam, and floor champion Catalina Ponor, rising star Larisa Iordache, Diana Bulimar, 2010 world championship silver medalist on floor Diana Chelaru and reigning Olympic floor champion Sandra Izbasa. The alternate is Raluca Haidu.

China’s Team (plus alternates)

China’s 2011 bronze world championship medalist Yao Jinnan, 2008 Olympic team gold medalist Deng Linlin, 2011 world champion bronze medalist on bars Huang Qiushuang, 2011 world champion on beam and silver medalist on floor Sui Lu and reigning Olympic bars and team champion He Kexin may challenge for a bronze. The alternates are Jiang Yuyuan, Tan Sixin.

To give you a picture, here are the current scores and start values from the last meet each team competed at (USA Olympic Trials, Romanian Friendly, Russia Cup and Chinese Nationals). I almost gave up doing this, as the comparisons are hardly even worth making. These scores were obtained under different judges, at very different times in this last season. China’s were from the beginning of May and were never reported officially. These were obtained from a fan site. Some of the people placed on the team didn’t actually even compete. So please know, this is a very loose “guestimate” and PROVES nothing. But it gives us an inkling of an idea.

Vault 16.15 16 15.8 47.95 6.5 6.5 6.5 19.5
Bars 15.9 15.65 15.35 46.9 6.5 6.4 6.4 19.3
Beam 15.4 15.05 14.9 45.35 6.4 6.3 5.9 18.6
Floor 15.5 15.6 15.3 46.4 6.5 6.2 6 18.7
Total 186.6 76.1
Vault 15.05 15 15.1 45.15 5.8 5.8 5.8 17.4
Bars 14.55 14.1 13.95 42.6 6.1 5.7 5.8 17.6
Beam 15.95 15.7 15.4 47.05 6.7 6.4 6.2 19.3
Floor 15.3 15.1 15 45.4 6.3 6.2 6.1 18.6
Total 180.2 72.9
Vault 15.2 15.067 15.8 46.067 5.8 5.8 5.8 17.4
Bars 15.2 16.2 15.867 47.267 7 7 6.8 20.8
Beam 15.067 14.7 14.3 44.067 6.3 6.1 6 18.4
Floor 14.3 14.133 14.267 42.7 5.9 5.8 6.1 17.8
Total 180.101 74.4
Vault 14.5 14.1 13.8 42.4 5.8 5.8 5.8 17.4
Bars 15.65 13.85 13.5 43 7.1 6.5 6.2 19.8
Beam 14.35 13.85 13.65 41.85 5.7 5.6 6.2 17.5
Floor 14.15 14 13.75 41.9 5.5 5.7 5.4 16.6
Total 169.15 71.3

Looking at these scores, it is easy to see why for much of the spring, people only talked about who would challenge for silver. USA gold seemed basically locked up. But as we have gotten closer, the other countries are making their bid. A huge part of the US lead is based on competing three amanars, a vault with one of the highest difficulty rating. These vaults alone give the USA a 2.1 lead over most teams.

Lately, amanar rumors abound. Russia has one girl who competed one last month (Paseka) and there are training videos of Komova completing an amanar (first five seconds of this video). Here is what Valentina Rodionenko from Sovietsky Sport had to say (according to a translation from Rewriting Russian Gymnastics)

Currently, Maria Paseka performs this vault excellently. She was named to the team thanks to her vault. Vika Komova performs it in training. Aliya, who got seriously injured when performing this vault, will perform it in London. Of course, it’s possible not to run risks and perform 2 twists. But we think we have to run the risk, it’s justified”

Russia is not the only one with amanar rumors. There is a video of Larisa Iordache training an amanar and rumors have Izbasa and possibly even Ponor competing one too. China’s Huang Qiushuang also has a video making the youtube rounds of her amanar.

If these rumors all come to fruition, this would raise Russia’s difficulty to .4 AHEAD of the USA and would raise Romania’s difficulty to trailing the USA by .6 instead of almost 3 points. I will be honest. I WANT these teams to come in with clean, safe amanars. I have been looking forward to a three or four way show down for gold for YEARS. Ever since Russia dominated in 2012 and Romania brought back their old coach Octavian Belu I have been gleefully anticipating one of the best team and all around competitions in gymnastics history. The thought of a repeat of last years Worlds, where the USA won by over four points is actually not appealing to me. Yes, I am a US fan. But more so, I am a gymnastics fan and I want to see great gymnastics!

But if I have learned anything this year watching the US team come together, it is that what IS is what WILL BE. I named the current US Olympic team months ago, but anxiously awaited Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson, Chellsie Memmel and Rebecca Bross to show performances that matched their former glory. Training rumors and even videos abound with promises of what was to come. But it never materialized. And in the end, the gymnastics that I saw all spring was what won the day.

I am so hoping that in the end, it will be a battle to the last tenth. We will all be sitting on the edge of our seats, wondering what the final placings will be. That everyone will hit and beautiful and difficult gymnastics will take our breath away. But in the end, I think the USA will take the gold.

I have never seen a team so full of calm, confident, consistent competitors. I boldly predict that it will be USA, Romania and Russia. But I hope that the competition is very, very close.

Who’s Who in 2012: Can She Prove that Bross is Still Boss

Rebecca Bross. Photo Credit: Heather Maynez

In 2009 Rebecca Bross burst onto the senior gymnastics scene after missing her opportunity to go to the Olympics due to her birthdate. Bross is Boss was a common slogan back then. She was a fierce competitor who attacked every apparatus with incredible difficulty, amplitude and her steely glare. She lost the World All Around title to Bridget Sloan on her last flip on her last event with a surprising fall on floor.

In 2010 Rebecca dominated where ever she went. She won the American Cup and then the Pacific Rim Championships. She went on to win the 2010 National Championships by 3.3 points. Not quite the margin of Jordyn Wieber in 2011, but  you get the picture.  She crushed the competition. Then came Worlds.

You know how we have all talked about the incredible feat of Chellsie Memmel competing bars with a broken foot in 2008? Well, Rebecca had been battling pain in her foot/shin leading up to Worlds. Sometime during Worlds, it turned into a hairline fracture in her ankle. She competed four routines in prelims, four in team finals, four in all around finals and two in event finals, not to mention training with a broken foot. After qualifying into the all arounds in first, she fell on beam and seemed to have lost any chance at a medal.  She went out on floor, the downfall of her previous World Title. She did the routine of her life and brought the highest scoring floor routine of the entire competition to pull herself back on to the podium with a bronze. It was legendary, especially later knowing she did all of that on a broken ankle.

Rebecca had surgery on her ankle and was out of competition until 2011 Nationals. At this competition, Rebecca didn’t look like herself. The confidence and drive she had before seemed to be missing. She had three falls throughout the weekend and ended up dislocating her kneecap in a heart wrenching bad vault landing. This took her out for the rest of the season.

Rebecca has spent this season fighting her way back, trying to prove that Bross is Still Boss. She continues to show fierce determination but just can’t quite master the events she goes after so aggressively. Her particular achilles heel is her beam dismount. Even up to last year’s Visa National Championships, it was almost unfathomable to imagine that Rebecca Bross would not make the 2012 Olympic Team. But that may just be the case.

Rebecca will need to beat out all the other bars specialists and overcome her beam dismount to make the team. She has continued to improve her bars and shows her high flying releases and sharp, right on top pirouettes. She continues to do a world class difficulty beam routine. Two Patterson dismounts could be what’s between her and London.

Who’s Who in 2012: The Lovely Liukin

Continuing on with our Bars/Beam specialists, we have our bars star from 2008. For even the most casual gymnastics fan, Nastia Liukin needs no introduction. After all, she is the reigning Olympic All-Around Champion. Nastia has some of the most lovely balletic lines of any American gymnast in recent times. Her beautiful lines on all events combined with her incredible difficulty on beam and bars and her perfectionistic competitive spirit led to her all around gold in 2008.

Liukin announced her official comeback bid for the 2012 Olympic team at the World Championships in 2011. From that time until the US Secret Classics in May, fans anxiously awaited any word of her progress. At that competition, she showed a very respectable beam routine and podium training on bars that brought hope of things to come.

Then came Nationals. Nastia showed some great portions of bars routines during training, but had quite a lot of spotting and never put together a full routine. When she went to compete, she just didn’t have the endurance to do a full bars routine. With the ok of Marta Karolyi, she planned to not do a dismount on either day and brought in two very low scores. The first day of Nationals, she did an improved beam routine from Classics and tied for 3rd. However, on the second day, she put her hand down on the beam and was much further down the results list.

Liukin is a fan favorite (with many) and brings prestige, artistry and experience to the US team. There is something to be said when you have the reigning All Around champion on the floor. Watching her even on beam and bars is like going to the ballet – effortless, exquisite and mesmerizing. It is hard to realize just how difficult the skills she is doing are. She has the potential to be an incredible assest to the US team.

Liukin will have a lot to prove at the Olympic Trials. She will be trying to win the spot of a bars/beam specialist. Currently her top competition seems to be Kyla Ross who has averaged a 15.32 on bars with a high score of 15.5 and a 15.06 on beam with a high score of a 15.5. There is rumor of Martha wanting Nastia to show a 16.0 bars routine. But honestly, if she is able to beat Kyla’s average and high score (and the other bars/beam specialists), I think she has a good chance of going. After all, we know that with more time, Nastia can do more. For the others, they are probably at their peak for this year.

Here’s hoping that no matter what happens, Nastia continues to bring us the beautiful combination of athleticism and grace she has always shown.

Check out my other article on Nastia: Nastia Liukin’s Return – An Unfair Response?

Nastia Liukin’s Return – An Unfair Response?

Nastia Liukin, Visa National Championships. Photo Credit: NBCOlympics.com

Nastia Liukin’s return to elite level gymnastics has been met with great fanfare and great skepticism. From some of the media, she has been the focal point. Celebrated as a name that is familiar and known. From many others, it has been met with much cynicism and skepticism. Many fans felt that she put off her decision too long, and that thinking she could return so quickly was arrogant and disrespectful to the gymnasts who had put in the time and should now be the ones getting the attention. Others felt that she really was not serious about her return and was just doing it for the added publicity. In all honesty, I am a bit befuddled by the negative response she has gotten. Let me go back a bit (beware, I am stepping up on to my soap box).

In 2008, Nastia tied (unofficially, officially she got second through a complicated tie -breaker system that has since been done away with) as the Olympic bars champion. Even with Nastia’s incredibly high scoring bar routine, China beat the US  by 1.65 on bars. In 2010, the USA lost on bars to China by .3, even though China had a fall and the USA went clean.

In 2011, the US went in to team finals having lost most of their strong bar workers. Rebecca Bross, Mackenzie Caquatto, and Anna Li were all injured at some point in the process getting to worlds. Bridget Sloan was injured earlier in the season. This took out everyone who had been up on bars in the previous season and led to them putting up Sabrina Vega, Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber in the team finals. Jordyn Wieber, who most wish this year that she would not need to be one of the team finals bars scores, was our top bars score in 2011. Though we still won overall, even with only one of their strong bars workers, Russia beat us by .9 on bars. Though Gabby Douglas is our celebrated bars star right now, last year she either tied with Jordyn Wieber or was beat by her in all but Worlds qualifications. Gabby was scoring between 14.2-14.8. Did you notice those are 14s?!?

Am I the only one that remembers how many times we said, “Nastia, come back! We desperately need your bars” over those years? I remember a poignant moment at the last year’s Visa Championships where NBC showed Marta and Nastia (who was on the selection committee) talking seriously. Tim Daggett joked that Marta was begging Nastia, “Please come back and do bars for us!” Sure Nastia has come back for her own personal goals and glory. Of course she has. But after achieving the ultimate gymnastics goal, what more does she have to prove?

Nastia talks a lot about being afraid she would be sitting in the stands in London saying “What if.” But I wonder if she worries that the she would be sitting in the stands, wholly invested in Team USA’s results in her role on the USA selection committee, wondering “What if I would have helped out on bars and we would have won gold?” After all, in 2011 we knew that Russia had two stars sitting at home that could drastically change the outcome of our 2011 win.

Now it’s 2012. Gabby Douglas has increased her bars score by almost a point. Kyla Ross has come onto the scene and increased her bars start value by .6 over the previous year. Rebecca Bross and Bridget Sloan are back. And though we still don’t have an incredible bars line up, it looks like we have some good possibilites. But we still don’t have anyone, including Gabby, that can likely challenge the Russians on bars. So after years of hoping that Nastia would come back and give us a world class bars routine, instead of hope and excitement over what she might bring, she has been met with a good deal of scorn and skepticism.

Will Nastia be able to return to her former bars glory? I don’t know. But I think that the fact that she is willing to try, both for herself AND for the USA, is commendable. Something we should cheer on.  How many of us would really be willing to give up a life of glamour and fame to train 7 hours a day? For more money, more publicity? She had plenty of both. And according to Nastia not her. “There’s no amount of money, no sponsors or media attention that would make me want to train seven hours a day,” she said in an interview back in May. (Contra Costa Times, May 25)

Speaking of fame and money, how do we tend to remember gymnasts who end their career on a failed comeback? How do we remember those that end on their highest achievement? Take Carly Patterson. We remember her smiling face as Evgeny Marchenko hoisted her up as the AA Olympic Champion. But what about Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Tasha Schwiechert? Sure, with all the incredible gymnastics they performed and their moments of glory. But also with a slight twinge of sadness and regret at their unsuccessful comeback attempts.

Without a doubt, the best way to go out is on top.  If what Nastia really cares about is fame and glory, then she should NOT try to make a comeback. She should bask in the glory of this Olympic year as the reigning champion. Do tons of interviews as the athlete representative. Spend all her time traveling from media event to media event, gushing with advice and well wishes. She will never again be the reigning all around Olympic champion. THIS is the time to take advantage of the once every four years gymnastics fervor. Instead, Nastia has chosen to limit her media opportunities and to spend most of every day in the gym.

Will she make it? I don’t know. I hope so. How I long to see her beautiful lines and graceful bars and beam at the Olympics. How I want her to redeem that ridiculous tie breaker and win the gold medal she deserves on bars. But not matter the outcome, I stand with incredible respect for the comeback attempt Nastia has made.

And who knows, she just might do it. Nastia is an enormously talented gymnast. Though it may not be fair, talented gymnasts often just don’t need as much time to prepare. Valeri and Nastia Liukin have shown in the past that they understand how to prepare and how to peak. And that they absolutely do not like to be embarrassed by poor performances. I, for one, will not be surprised in the least if Nastia comes to Trials with a bar routine that proves she can be ready. Only time will tell. But even if she can’t pull it off, I tip my hat to Nastia and say THANK YOU for gracing us with your presence once again and for stepping in to try and help Team USA where we desperately need it.

Check out my Who’s Who in 2012: The Lovely Liukin for my “normal” blog post on Nastia.

Who’s Who in 2012: Anna Li, the Baroness of the Bars

And now it is time to take a look at our different bars specialists. First up, Anna Li. After an enormously successful NCAA career, Anna Li returned to elite gymnastics. She made the World Team in 2011, but after an abdominal injury became to painful, she was relegated to alternate. Her upbeat attitude and constant smiling support of the team as an alternate at the 2011 World Championships was as impressive as her incredible bars routines.  At the 2012 Visa National Championships, Anna Li posted a difficulty of 6.7 and 6.9. This is by far the most difficult bar routine in the US.  For comparison, Gabby Douglas posted a 6.5 and 6.6. She has recently blogged that she is working on her 7.1 routine. The only other gymnast posting that high of difficulty is China’s He Kexin (who may or may not be at the 2012 Olympics).

Anna Li also competes beam. But her difficulty scores are way too low to be used in a team finals situation. If Anna Li can upgrade her bars difficulty to a 7.1 AND improve her E score to be in the 8.9 range, she will make an incredibly strong case for herself as a bars specialist. This, along with another gymnast who can bring a high vault score and beam score might get her on the team.

Anna Li impresses me as a team leader, an incredibly sweet spirit and someone who can score the high bars scores we would need to keep a minimal gap with Russia on bars. She will need to bring her very best to Trials and compete two well-executed, high difficulty, hit routines.

Anna Li has also choreographed on of my very favorite floor routines with her mother. It is still to be seen if she will ever compete this routine again after a rough start at the US Secret Classics, but even the dance through was worth it. It gave me chills!


And just for fun…

Me and Anna Li after Visa’s

Who’s Who in 2012: The Artistic American

Sarah Finnegan. Photo Credit Heather Maynez

American gymnasts are often accused of lacking artistry. But such is not the case of the sublime Sarah Finnegan. Finnegan commands the floor as if it was her stage. She is mesmerizing from her triple wolf turn, through her exquisite front tumbling to her dazzling finish.

Finnegan has top difficulty on floor and beam. She can compete this difficulty with incredible form, beautiful artistry and attention to detail. Others have done the triple wolf turn on beam and floor, but no one makes it look like she does. Finnegan is a true joy to watch.

Finnegan has had flashes of brilliance on both floor and beam this year. She has the highest start value of any senior on beam in the world! She has a .4 advantage over the next highest Americans. On floor, she has the second highest start value  of all the other Americans and the third highest in the world.  But right now she hasn’t been consistent enough on either floor or beam to put her up in team finals over other gymnasts. Her highest floor score is .1 lower than Gabby’s highest floor score, and her average score is just below Gabby’s. On beam she has basically the same average as Kayla but Kayla has put up a higher score.  Right now she just doesn’t bring the advantage over other gymnasts competing with her for that 5th spot on the team.

However, I think she COULD! She has perfect form and execution. If she goes out and really hits two beam routines and two floor routines without wobbles and bobbles and steps, she has the difficulty to bring in very high scores. In addition to that,  she has the beautiful lines and artistry that international judges love. If Sarah could add .7-.8 to her combined floor/beam scores from Visa’s by sticking her landings and going wobble free on beam, she could really make a case for herself.  Or if Gabrielle Douglas does not show consistency on floor at Trials, or our bars/beam specialist ends up being a bars specialist only (like Anna Li) someone like Sarah becomes much more valuable to the team score. She will have to bring her best!

Here is a great montage of her. One of my favorites! by 13Shifter

Which do you like better, Sarah’s floor or beam? What do you think about her chances of making the team?

Who’s Who in 2012: The Vaulting Vixen

McKayla Maroney. Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj, US Presswire

McKayla Maroney: the Vaulting Vixen. (No, not vixen as in a malicious woman. Vixen as in totally gorgeous and amazing human female).

McKayla is undoubtedly the best vaulter in the world. Perfect form. Unmatched height. Catlike, dead center landings. It is magical watching her do that vault. If McKayla makes the US Olympic team, even the most cautious gambler would bet on her as the Olympic vault champion. No one else matches her for difficulty or execution. The crazy part is that making the team is much more difficult for her that winning an Olympic gold medal!

Martha Karolyi has said that McKayla needs to bring an improved floor routine in addition to her world champion vault to make the team. She opens with an incredible 3 1/2 twist and has a beautifully choreographed, graceful routine. However, she has to get her landings under control. She scored a 14.6 at Visa’s with small shuffles on every pass and a huge bounding step on her infamous third pass.

McKayla had a scary fall in warmups for finals at nationals that left her with a concussion and a slightly broken nose. This means that she didn’t get a second chance to show her floor routine. It also means that she is going into these important weeks of training with concussion symptoms. Hopefully this will not derail her training too much. (USAG released an official update here.)

McKayla is a confident, dynamic and beautiful girl. She is fun to watch and shows so much potential. McKayla would bring artistry, grace and those beautiful lines that international judges like to see. Lets hope she can bring those qualities on another event besides vault to make the team!

What is your favorite time McKayla has competed her amanar? What do you think about her chances of making the team?

Maroney the Model

This isn’t strictly gymnastics. But I can’t help but write on it. Has anyone else noticed how absolutely gorgeous McKayla Maroney is? No matter what the situation, the girl takes absolutely breathtaking pictures.

Instagram from Aly Raisman in St. Louis
Instagram McKayla Maroney “after workout hair!!
McKayla Maroney 2011 World Championships
McKayla Maroney 2012 City of Jesolo

I have a concussion and a fractured nose! but don’t worry I’m okay!! McKayla Maroney Instagram

Best of all was McKayla on a stretcher. Only McKayla can look like she is riding on a royal sedan when she is on a stretcher. (See :44 below). aThere just aren’t many that could pull off that look! Here’s to our future model!

What’s your favorite McKayla picture? I saved my favorite pic of McKayla of all for my  “Real” Who’s Who Post on McKayla. Check it out!

Who’s Who in 2012: The Queen of Clean

Photo Credit USA Gymnastics

Kyla Ross, the Queen of Clean. Kyla Ross has quietly and steadily come onto the center stage in her senior debut year.  She didn’t explode onto the scene or take the gymnastics world by storm.  Though she has plenty of difficulty on three of the four events, there is nothing flashy about her gymnastics or her skills that just jump out at you and demand your attention. But somehow, every time you wonder who is in the running, she is there. And just like she competes her beam routine – steadily, slowly and surely- she is making her way onto this Olympic team.

Much of this is owed to her incredibly clean execution. She doesn’t have breath taking form like a Courtney McCool or a Sarah Finnegan. But she does everything, well, almost perfectly. Beautiful splits, great amplitude, always pointed toes. You just can’t take much off. She squeezes every tenth out of her difficult routines by being… clean.

Though Kyla is still in her first senior year, she has already begun to make a reputation of dependability. It doesn’t make me nervous to put her up on beam in an Olympic team finals. I feel confident that she will do what she always does.

Kyla makes quite a case for herself by being one of our top bar workers and being a high scoring,  dependable beam routine. Unless someone else is able to come along and show higher difficulty with solid routines each day on bars and beam at trials, it is highly likely that Kyla will fill the bars/beam spot on our team. Because you can bet that she will go to trials and be the Queen of Clean each and every time.